How It Is, a landmark in 20th century literature, is one of the most challenging of Samuel Beckett's early novels. He published it first in French in 1961 and then in his own translation in 1964. He explained in a letter that it was the outpouring of a "'man' lying panting in the mud and dark murmuring his 'life' as he hears it obscurely uttered by a voice inside him.... The noise of his panting fills his ears and it is only when this abates that he can catch and murmur forth a fragment of what is being stated within...."
It is written in short paragraphs without punctuation. Fragments of expression pour out, of memories, intentions, emotions. It is testing to read on the page, but in this extraordinary recording by Dermot Crowley, How It Is becomes more accessible and comprehensible than ever before. It is, from the start, mesmerizing, and as the character of the protagonist emerges through his words, moments of aggression, of tenderness, of loss and hopelessness become increasingly affecting. The novel is divided into three parts, as the opening paragraph indicates: 'How it was I quote before Pim with Pim after Pim how it is three parts I say it as I hear it [Paragraph] voice once without quaqua on all sides then in me when the panting stops tell me again finish telling me/invocation.'